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Obama Seeks $17B In Budget Cuts

In twin strokes, President Barack Obama is calling on Congress to award generous budget increases to domestic programs while proposing relatively modest cuts to wasteful or obsolete programs that just won't seem to die.

Mr. Obama's promised line-by-line scrub of the federal budget has produced a roster of 121 budget cuts totaling $17 billion - or about one-half of 1 percent of the $3.4 trillion budget Congress has approved for next year. The details were unveiled Thursday.

Many of the proposed cuts have already been rejected by Mr. Obama's allies in Congress, including some programs that his predecessor, President George W. Bush, repeatedly sought to end.

Despite the relatively modest nature of the cuts, "none of this will be easy" amid the continuing deep economic slump, Mr. Obama said.

In his remarks, Mr. Obama addressed criticism over the size of the cuts, saying that "these savings, large and small, add up."

"Some of the cuts we're putting forward today are more painful than others. Some are larger than others. In fact a few of the programs we eliminate will produce less than a million dollars in savings. Outside of Washington, that's still a lot of money," he said. (Click here to read Mr. Obama's full remarks.)

Mr. Obama said that Americans are tightening their belts in these difficult times and want to know if Washington "is prepared to act with the same sense of responsibility."

"I believe we can and must do exactly that," he said.

The spending cuts for the budget year that begins Oct. 1 were detailed in a supplement to the broader 2010 budget outline that the president proposed in February and which Congress has already acted on.

The new proposals are not in the form of legislation.

White House budget director Peter Orszag added that the president's plan for program cuts is just a start and that a lot more needs to be done to dig the government out of its fiscal hole, especially curbing the growth of the Medicare and Medicaid health care programs for the elderly and the poor.

"But $17 billion a year is not chump change by anyone's accounting," he said.

Those savings are far exceeded by a 2 1/2-inch thick volume detailing Obama's generous increases for domestic programs. And instead of devoting the savings to defray record deficits, the White House is funneling them back into other programs.

Republicans were quick to ridicule the small amount of savings Mr. Obama wants in a budget that increases domestic spending across the board, reports CBS News correspondent Bob Fuss.

"Its like taking a teaspoon of water out of the bathtub while you keep the spigot on at full speed and the bathtub continues to fill up. A spigot of spending," said Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H.

"While we appreciate the newfound attention to saving taxpayer dollars from this administration, we respectfully suggested that we should do far more," House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said.

The irony, Fuss reports, is that even though the cuts the president proposes are relatively small, each program he's targeted has supporters among both Democrats and Republicans and Congress will likely end up keeping most of them.

Most of the major elements of Mr. Obama's budget for next year were released in February. Additional details, including an increase in fees on airline travel to fund airport security programs, come next week.

The roster of cuts won't be easy for Congress to swallow. Lawmakers from the potent California, New York and Florida delegations are sure to fight the elimination of the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which gives money to states to help defray the cost of incarcerating illegal immigrants who commit crimes. President George W. Bush tried and failed to kill the $400 million program several times.

Mr. Obama is also claiming savings from eliminating a host of accounts typically earmarked by members of Congress such as a $10 million West Virginia highway project obtained by Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., and $15 million obtained by Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., for diesel emissions reduction grants.

Mr. Obama is also proposing $145 million in savings from a clean water program administered by the Environmental Protection Agency which bankrolled 301 earmarks this year.

But Mr. Obama is not actually proposing to kill thousands of earmarks funded in the $410 billion catchall spending bill passed in March.

In fact, some of the cuts, like terminating production of C-17 cargo aircraft and phasing out direct payments to farmers with sales exceeding $500,000 annually, have already been rejected by Mr. Obama's allies in Congress. A key House panel is proposing adding $2.2 billion for 8 C-17s to Mr. Obama's pending war request, while a congressional budget plan passed last week protects the farm payments targeted by Mr. Obama.

About half the budget savings would come from an effort by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to curb defense programs, including ending production of the F-22 fighter and killing a much-maligned replacement helicopter fleet for the president that's way over budget.

Orszag briefed Democratic lawmakers on a partial roster of the cuts Wednesday. Mr. Obama also is fleshing out the details of the $1.3 trillion portion of the budget that he requested Congress pass through appropriations bills for the budget year beginning Oct. 1.

The administration is also proposing curbing subsidies for crop insurance to save $5.2 billion over 10 years and killing a $25 million program that funds the relocation of rail lines.

And just as Congress is beginning work on a new war bill to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan into the fall, Mr. Obama is sending up a $130 billion request to fund them next year. That figure may not be adequate considering the increase in the tempo of operations in Afghanistan.

Mr. Obama has said repeatedly his administration will go through the budget "line by line" to eliminate waste. But the resulting savings are relatively minor compared with the government's fiscal woes, especially a deficit that's likely to exceed $1.5 trillion this year.

Many of the cuts mirror those proposed previously by Bush but largely rejected by Congresses controlled by both Republicans and Democrats.

In fact, Democrats already have pared about $10 billion from Mr. Obama's appropriations requests in passing the $3.4 trillion congressional budget plan last month.

In a preview, administration officials named a few examples Thursday which mostly represented easy-to-pluck targets, like ending the Education Department's attache in Paris, at a savings of $632,000 a year. Another example: the obsolete LORAN-C marine navigation system, which still gets $35 million a year despite being made obsolete by the satellite-based Global Positioning System.

More Coverage:

New Marine One Among Obama's Budget Cuts

Obama Tries To Control Budget Storyline

Morning Bulletin: Cuts Land With A Thud From The Media